A federal judge has sent a 19-county lawsuit against opioid manufacturers back to the Tennessee circuit court system.
The move comes after major pharmaceutical companies – like Perdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals – attempted to move the case up to the federal level.
13th Judicial District Attoney Bryant Dunaway said the lawsuit aims to hold the companies responsible for their role in the opioid crisis.
“The attorneys representing the opioid manufacturers tried to remove the case to federal court,” Dunaway said. “That’s a legal term basically asking the court to transfer the case to the federal court system. We opposed that because we didn’t think it was legally proper and appropriate. The federal judge agreed with us, so the case was sent back to the circuit court here in our judicial district.”
The decision follows a Cumberland County Circuit Court ruling in February. That ruling allowed the case to continue despite request from the pharmaceutical companies to dismiss the lawsuit.
State and federal authorities have arrested Carthage and Celina doctors since April for improper distribution of opioids. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) officials in February issued restraining orders against two Celina pharmacies for distributing nearly 1.5 million pills across Clay County.
Dunaway said the recent arrests of doctors and other medical professionals across the region have helped their case.
“It’s an illustration of the widespread opioid problem,” Dunaway said. “We’ve sued manufacturers for their fraudulent and deceitful marketing of their product. We’ve also sued distributors all the way down to some pharmacies and local medical providers.”
Dunaway said the practice of over-prescribing opioid painkillers has led to countless drug-related issues across the Upper Cumberland.
“That’s kind of the problem on the side of the medical personnel and the manufacturers,” Dunaway said. “They know that this product is being abused and addictive, and they’re prescribing them to people they’re not even seeing. This one in particular is distributing the drugs improperly and it’s just a widespread problem.”
Dunaway said the lawsuit will continue at the circuit court level with arguments taking place in Cookeville in the near future.